Newly drafted wide receiver Tavon Austin has helped spark the rise in the NFL Draft stock of Oregon Duck super athlete De’Anthony Thomas.
Everyone in the nation knew that Thomas was going to get a shot in the NFL, but no one could have imagined that he would be talked about going in the first round.
Thomas is an electric athlete at the collegiate level, but standing at only 5-feet 9-inches and weighing 176 pounds, he doesn’t have the prototypical NFL body to excite many scouts at the professional level; or does he?
In April’s 2013 NFL Draft, the St. Louis Rams took 5-foot 8-inch and 174-pound Austin with the 8th overall pick, casting a spotlight on Thomas and his possibilities of being a first round pick whenever he decides to leave Oregon.
Austin and Thomas’ first two years in college are almost identical—with Thomas out-rushing Austin significantly. It was Austin’s junior season that really put him on the map with NFL scouts.
Austin finished his junior season with 101 receptions and 1,186 yards with eight touchdowns. He followed that spectacular season with an even more impressive senior year, totaling 1,289 receiving yards on 114 catches and 12 touchdowns.
In those final two seasons at West Virginia, Austin catapulted himself from an NFL player to a first round talent.
Thomas is going to have to do the same thing in order to get drafted in the first round as Austin did, but it is possible.
Most NFL Draft analysts have Thomas as one of the top 2014 prospects, but I don’t see him foregoing his senior season to go pro. He is going to have to replicate Austin’s junior and senior seasons if he wants to have the same hype heading into the draft.
I predict that Thomas will end his junior season with about 1,000 yards rushing, 1,000 yards in kick/punt return yards, fewer than 700 receiving yards, and 20 total touchdowns.
With that said, what would make him come back for his senior season?
One of the biggest knocks on Thomas is that he isn’t as refined as a player as Austin was when entering the draft; thus, forcing Thomas to come back for another season to duplicate his successful junior season—making his journey to the NFL identical to that of Austin’s.
Look for Thomas to be a Top 15 Draft pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. If he decides to leave for the 2014 Draft he will be a late-first or second round pick. Unlike former USC quarterback Matt Barkley, it’s a smart idea for Thomas to stay for his senior season.